Finishing a Basement Floor
LESLIE: Dick tunes into The Money Pit in Montana on KBLL. And how can we help you, Dick?
DICK: Well, I’ve got an older home; 1973 is when it was built. And the downstairs basement was only completed with 2x4s glued to the wall with no insulation and paneling put over the top of that. So I want to insulate the basement plus the floor. And I was wondering if I should put some kind of a sealer coat of something inside the walls of the basement before I insulate and put on a finish coat. And plus, what do I do to the floor, also? That’s my basic question.
LESLIE: On the floor, right now, is just cement?
DICK: Yes, it’s all cement.
TOM: Yeah, and the way they did those walls is not really the best way. You don’t want to attach the studs right to the block wall. In the best case scenario you –
LESLIE: Well, they need to float away a little bit –
LESLIE: – just so you get the air circulating and they don’t get all moist.
TOM: Yeah, if you have a moisture problem, it’s going to really be a problem for you. Because that moisture will wick right through the studs that are attached to the wall into the paneling or drywall and it can become a mold issue as well. So the way that’s done is not really the best way.
If you’re looking for the way to do the floor, the proper way would be to put down a vapor barrier – plastic vapor barrier – then on top of that, you would put some pressure-treated studs. You would attach those to the floor, probably with Tapcons or masonry nails –
LESLIE: So you’re going to lose some height to this basement.
TOM: Yeah, a little bit.
DICK: Yes, yes. I understand that.
TOM: And then, in between those 2x4s that are flat on the floor – we call those sleepers – you could put in some of those foam insulating panels. And then, that continuous surface would be covered with plywood. Now you’ll have a warm wood, dry floor. But it really concerns me the way those … the way those walls were made. Because I’ve seen homes that were constructed in that very fashion that became a major mold problem; really major mold problem. Because the wetness of the walls attached right to the studs.
DICK: Well, I … I’m not sure there is a moisture problem because … but I honestly don’t know, I guess. But none of the studs look like they’ve had any moisture on them over the years.
DICK: They’ve been there for many years.
TOM: Well, work on the floor. And you know, if you see an issue, remember what we told you; you may have to do some more work on those … on the walls. The work that you do to the floor, though, won’t impact what’s happening with the walls. And that’s the best way to give you a very nice wood warm floor. Can you afford to lose about two-and-a-half inches in height in that basement?
DICK: Yes, I think I can do that.
TOM: Yeah. Then I think you’re going to be good to go. Because you’ll have an inch-and-a-half with the 2×4 on the flat and then, maybe, three-quarters to five-eights of an inch with the subfloor. And then another three-eights to half-inch with the carpet. So you’ll be looking at about two-and-a-half inches or so by the time you’re all done.
DICK: Yeah, well I can live with that. I guess I … what you’re saying is just forget about the walls and –
TOM: Well, yeah.
DICK: – (inaudible) dry.
TOM: Unless you really want to work on them. In that case, take them apart and frame them in a little bit. Now, Leslie, besides the carpet – because that’s probably not the best choice for a basement – what other options might he want to consider.
LESLIE: There’s a whole bunch of different options. You can look at something called engineered hardwood which is, basically, something that’s assembled in the same way a sheet of plywood would be; except the top layer is actually a wood veneer. So you get the look of a beautiful hardwood floor but it’s stable so it can go in a moist situation like the basement.
You can also look at a laminate flooring, which is available in finishes such as wood flooring. It looks like planks. You can get planks that are wide and aged in a variety of stains so that they can look just about any type of wood flooring that you’d like. You can also get a laminate flooring that looks like a ceramic tile. And those are really great because they’ll stand up to sort of any sort of moisture situation you get in the basement. And they’re just really durable and easy to clean.
If you like vinyl or the price of vinyl, Armstrong has a new sheet vinyl product that looks fantastic. It doesn’t look like a vinyl product; it looks like real mosaic tiles or slate. And that’s something in like the $2.50 per square foot range. So you’ve got a lot of options out there when it comes to flooring for the basement.
Carpet, Tom doesn’t always think is the best idea. We have it in our basement. I love it. So, it’s up to you.
DICK: Well –
TOM: Okay, Dick?
TOM: Alright. Well, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And good luck finishing that basement.